In the third part of the first chapter of “On Ordeal: Ronan,” Ronan’s Ordeal is set into motion when he stands up for someone at school. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of racism/xenophobia (specifically anti-Blackness, anti-African sentiment)
So, on the surface, this is a good thing, and I wouldn’t deny this. Like I said before, bystanders can easily support the thing they might disagree with if they don’t say anything. I wouldn’t suggest that Ronan (or any other white/majority person within this sort of situation) not say anything at all if they saw shit like this going down. Part of the reason that people like Seamus thrive so much in our world is because there is no consequence to their actions. We see a manifestation of that in the end of the chapter when Ronan is the only person punished and Seamus gets off scot-free. (Well, not entirely, since his nose is victim to Ronan’s forehead L M A O.) But it also comes from the lack of social consequences, too. Everyone either laughs at the shitty jokes that Seamus, or they’re silent. Their silence is, in effect, complicity. It allows that line of thought to flourish and survive. (And not for every situation either, though. I don’t want to generalize too much. There are contexts where speaking up or openly rejecting bigotry can be incredibly dangerous for someone else, particularly if they’re of another minority group that could become a target.)
No, I’d rather address the construction of the scene instead. I’m proud of Ronan for refusing to take Seamus’s shit and for repeatedly standing up for others. That’s good behavior to model, y’all! I’m only confused my Maurice. I believe we’re meant to think that he’s in that spot because it’s the only place to smoke outside of the view of the cameras. Which… okay, I could buy that. But it felt like Maurice was around these people all the time. Why? Why would someone who is so frequently racially abused by people continue to spend time with him?
Perhaps there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this, and we’ll get to it, and then I’ll admit that I was wrong in my perception of this scene. But as it stands, Maurice isn’t really a character. He exists entirely for Ronan to have his big moment, to be set on this path towards… well, whatever his Ordeal is about. I barely know anything about him or his story. Speaking from experience, if I can avoid gigantic racists, I generally do? It’s not like this is in class or in some mandatory space where Maurice can’t help but be around these turds, but this seems entirely voluntary, and I can’t understand why he’d hang around any of them. Plus, it’s not like Ronan chases Maurice down to see if he’s okay or if he needs help. After this, Ronan only thinks about himself and the ramifications of what he’s done. That’s understandable to an extent, and the narrative style means we’re real in Ronan’s head. But I would have liked for Maurice to exist as more than a plot/character device, you know?
Otherwise, my frustration with this is purely a reaction to a situation that is meant to frustrate me. I’m sure that many of us have had the unfortunate experience of being picked on someone who has social “immunity.” More often than not, those popular people are rich. White. Straight. Cis. They’re part of the majority or, if they’re not, they’ve got some sort of power that they can wield over others. They leverage that power to get away with their bullshit, fully knowing that they’ll never be held accountable for their actions.
In this specific instance, Seamus not only has power along racial lines—he certainly has a disgusting combination of whiteness and nationalism swirling together inside of him—but he’s got the protection afforded to him by his father’s posh position within the local government. It’s possible that Seamus’s Da doesn’t actually know what his son is up to, though I suspect that this line confirms that his father does enable his son’s vicious behavior:
Because everybody knew that if somebody in the Council got on somebody’s bad side, their application for their new conservatory or a medical card for a sick relative might go straight down the bog. Or get lost behind some sofa at the Council offices until whoever had stood up for themselves had to go to the offices and grovel to get something that should have been theirs by right.
Yeah, so fuck the lot of ‘em. He’s probably fully aware of how terrible his son is, or at least he believes he’s justified in what he’s doing. Thus, Mr. Flannery, the principal, does have his hands tied. Who dares stand up to the McConaghies? And oh boy, isn’t THAT a terrible familiarity??? The person who instigated all of this is not punished as badly as the person who responded to the instigation. (Well, Seamus isn’t punished at all, but you get the point.) It’s so bogus, and it’s one of the most deeply unjust, bullshit standards we’ve accepted as a society. It ignores power dynamics. It ignores that it does matter who starts this kind of nonsense, and it further supports Seamus getting away with his bigotry. My question is: How is Ronan going to stop this? Really, it should be Mr. Flannery’s job to take a more active role in this, but I didn’t understand that there are complicated politics at hand. Now Ronan’s suspended for three days, his parents are going to be pissed, and Seamus gets whatever he wants. I HATE HIM, OKAY.
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